For 2014, Ford Fiesta gets a freshened look, along with two new thrifty engines, upgraded in-car technology and a revised interior.
Boasting the title of best-selling subcompact across the globe, the Ford Fiesta is a fierce competitor in the small car market. Available in both hatchback and sedan versions, the two body styles make distinctly different statements.
A new wide, horizontal front grille is the most noticeable change on the 2014 Ford Fiesta, bearing a strong resemblance to the latest-generation Fusion sedan. Headlamps and taillamps are new, too, and the refreshed styling helps to make the Fiesta 5 percent more aerodynamic than before, which helps with fuel economy. A Super Fuel Economy Package helps to earn an EPA-estimated 30/41 mpg City/Highway.
Most 2014 Fiesta models are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, good for 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 27/38 mpg City/Highway with the standard 5-speed manual transmission, or 29/39 mpg with the 6-speed automatic. This engine carries over from the 2013 model.
However, two new engines make their debut on the 2014 Ford Fiesta: On the efficient end of the spectrum, Ford's 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine will be available late in the model year with 123 horsepower and fuel economy projected to be a class-leading 30/40 mpg City/Highway. At the opposite end of the scale, the high-performance Fiesta ST uses a high-output, direct-injected version of Ford's 1.6-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine good for 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque.
New MyKey technology allows owners (parents) to set maximum limits on vehicle speed and stereo volume, and prevents deactivation of safety systems.
Optional on most models is a 6-speed dual clutch transmission, which Ford calls the PowerShift automatic. Unlike a traditional automatic transmission, this gearbox is actually an automated manual that uses two dry clutches. The result is faster shift times and improved fuel economy. It's the best of both worlds for people who are enthusiastic about driving, but for whom stop-and-go traffic kills the notion of a traditional stick shift. With this option, there's no clutch pedal to continuously pump, yet drivers can choose to change gears manually for a sportier, authentic shift feel.
Inside, the 2014 Fiesta gets updated with a new instrument panel Ford designers say was inspired by the look of a mobile phone. Seats are comfortable and have enough bolstering to offer support, without affecting passengers' ability to get in and out. Quality of interior materials is par with other cars in its class. All models include the voice-activated Sync system, which allows users to control certain vehicle functions by talking, and also offers access to various apps via smartphone a Bluetooth-paired smartphone. Top-of-the-line Titanium models get standard features one would normally expect to find on bigger, fancier cars, including leather upholstery and the MyFordTouch interface with 6.5-inch touchscreen with HD Radio and Sirius satellite radio capability. Roomy enough for a six-foot driver, Fiesta provides slightly less headroom but slightly more legroom than the Nissan Versa Note, making it a good choice for the long-legged.
We found the Fiesta feels right at home driving around town and while running weekend errands. The base engine's 120 horsepower isn't mind-blowing, but it's enough to tackle the daily commute in stride. Ride quality is smooth. Wind and road noise is decently muted, but did hear noise from the tires when traveling at moderate and higher speeds. The steering feel is certain, and the Fiesta goes where you point it.
Despite the introduction of a few new price-conscious subcompacts in the past few years, the Fiesta remains one of the best choices when it comes to looks, value and driving dynamics. However, the Fiesta isn't as roomy as some, even in the hatch body style. Those considering the sedan might also want to look at the Chevrolet Sonic, Hyundai Accent or Nissan Versa. Fans of the hatchback should also consider the Honda Fit or the all-new Nissan Versa Note hatch, especially if cargo space is a concern.
The 2014 Fiesta rides on the same platform as the 2013 model and the wheelbase remains unchanged, but it's a half-inch shorter overall.
Up front, the generic, wedge-shaped front end of the outgoing 2013 Fiesta has been replaced with a look that's more modern and distinct for 2014. The upper and lower grilles have swapped proportions. Now, a large, big-mouthed upper grille grabs the most attention, with the same horizontal lines seen on the Ford Fusion sedan. The lower grille is low and long, and flows nicely into reshaped foglamp housings. Headlamps are new too, but retain the upswept back corner found on the outgoing model. Deep hood lines give the Fiesta a more athletic look. The net result is a bolder Fiesta with more European flair, although in this variation it doesn't pull off the Aston Martin-esque air that the Fusion carries. Fiesta ST replaces the grille insert with black mesh.
Lines on either side of the large upper grille flow around the front quarter panel and into wide, flared front fender arches. Viewed from the side, both sedan and hatchback versions of the 2014 Ford Fiesta are mostly unchanged. They keep the deep, slightly rising character line that runs through the front and rear door handles. Hatchbacks keep the same silhouette: a slightly arcing roofline accented by the little turned-up tail of the rear deck lid spoiler. On the ST, the high-mount spoiler is more prominent.
In the rear, the sedan has sleeker, reshaped tail lamps and a more contoured deck lid, but keeps its somewhat boxy rear end shape. Changes to the hatch are tougher to spot.
Upgraded materials make their way into the 2014 Ford Fiesta's redesigned cabin. Instead of using hard plastic, the texture of the material covering the instrument panel on our Fiesta SE was soft yet slightly rough, like slubbed linen. A mix of this material and harder plastic is also found on the side doors.
Controls inside the 2014 Ford Fiesta fan out in a winged V shape. Designers say the look and feel of the instrument panel was inspired by a cell phone, although today's mobile phones would never include so many buttons and switches. Without the MyFordTouch interface, our Fiesta SE model had more than three dozen buttons on the center stack alone. Instead of toggling through audio functions, there is a separate button for each (CD, radio, etc.). Below the audio controls are the climate control functions, laid out in a large central circle, flanked by round temp and fan speed knobs.
The display screen on the Fiesta SE is set back deep into the instrument panel, which shields it from glare. We found it easily readable in bright sunlight. The voice-activated SYNC system comes standard on all models and allows users to control the audio system and pair a phone via Bluetooth, access certain Ford-approved apps and get voice-prompted, turn-by-turn directions. The system functions reliably most of the time, but as it relies on cell phone coverage, service can be spotty in areas without a strong signal.
The small storage area in the center console of the Fiesta is relatively narrow, but is plenty deep. Our Fiesta SE's center console had two cup holders that sit front-to-back and were large enough to hold a bottle of Vitamin Water. The storage pocket in the front door is large enough for a coffee mug or larger water bottle.
Seats are comfortable and have enough side bolstering to keep occupants properly positioned. The black fabric upholstery with white stitching in our Fiesta SE was basic and nothing special, but on par with the class. Leather upholstery and heated front seats are available on Fiesta Titanium models.
Front seats in the 2014 Ford Fiesta will accommodate a six-footer. However, with 39.1 inches of headroom, Fiesta falls shy of the Nissan Versa Note by more than a half inch, and is bested by the 2013 Honda Fit by more than an inch and a half. However, front legroom in the Fiesta measures 42.2 inches, about an inch more than both the Versa Note and the Fit.
Rear passengers suffer most against the competition. Headroom in the 2014 Ford Fiesta measures 37.2 inches, nearly an inch less than what's found in the Nissan and nearly two inches less than that of the Honda. Fiesta's rear legroom is a paltry 31.2 inches when compared to the Fit's 34.5 inches, and the Versa Note's extremely roomy 38.3 inches.
When it comes to cargo space, the Fiesta sedan's 12.8 cubic feet is on par with the rest of the class. The hatchback, however, falls shy. With all the seats in place, the Fiesta hatch offers 14.9 cubic feet. With the rear seats folded down, the maximum is 26 cubic feet, a far cry from the Versa Note's 38.3 cubic feet Honda Fit's cavernous 57.3 cubic feet.
Forward and side visibility is about average for the class. The small, triangular, fixed windows at the base of the A-pillar add an airiness to the forward vision. Rear visibility in the hatchback pays the price of that aforementioned taut styling, with kind of a tunnel vision effect from the inward tapering of the rear quarter panels and C-pillar. This is one area where the sedan is superior.
We found the Ford Fiesta with its 120-hp 1.6-liter engine perfectly adequate for commuting and driving around town. And once it gets up to speed, the Fiesta runs with freeway traffic, and it cruises reasonably comfortably at 70 mph. Hit a slight grade, though, or try to pass on a two-lane road, and the limitations of its meager 112 pound-feet of torque become obvious.
A 6-speed dual clutch transmission Ford calls the PowerShift automatic is optional on most Fiesta models. Unlike a traditional automatic transmission, this gearbox is actually an automated manual that uses two dry clutches. The result is faster shift times and improved fuel economy. It's the best of both worlds for people who are enthusiastic about driving, but for whom stop-and-go traffic kills the notion of a traditional stick shift. With this option, there's no clutch pedal to continuously pump, yet drivers can choose to change gears manually for a sportier, authentic shift feel. It does have its idiosyncrasies, however, like slight rollback on hills and a reluctance to creep forward when attempting to finesse into a tight parking space.
Our 2014 Ford Fiesta SE hatchback came equipped with a 5-speed manual, which was relatively easy to operate, with an easy clutch pedal and light throws of the shifter.
The sporty Fiesta ST comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual gearbox.
Steering response was what was expected from the wheel and tire package, not especially sharp but still sufficiently precise. Handling is easily controlled, and we felt little body roll through tight corners. We did notice, however, moderate noise coming from the tires while cruising at moderate to higher speeds. The Fiesta's internal cooling fan seemed to run continuously, which was especially noticeable at stoplights.
We noticed no brake fade after driving 30 miles on winding, hilly canyon roads at a moderately aggressive pace, and despite the front disc/rear drum setup common at this price point, we felt confident in the Fiesta's stopping power.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta sports a bold new look and capable driving dynamics, but falls shy when it comes to rear passenger and cargo space.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Laura Burstein filed this report after driving the Ford Fiesta SE hatchback in Santa Monica, California.